A newer Advanced Placement course is being offered for just the second time in Community High School District 155.AP capstone

The class, focusing on research, is only being offered at a limited number of high schools across the country. More than 200 District 155 students are expected to take the course in its second go-around.

AP Seminar is part of a two-course program titled AP Capstone, according to Corey Tafoya, the district’s assistant superintendent of educational services.

District 155 is the only school system in McHenry County offering the course this year. College Board, which oversees AP courses, chose District 155 as one of the locations to offer the program this year.

“One of the things colleges have been saying to secondary (education) is students don’t understand how to research an article well, and how to find good research,” Tafoya told the Northwest Herald. “Second, that they don’t know how to evaluate it.”

In AP Seminar, normally taken by sophomores and juniors, students learn how to examine multiple sources to develop an opinion and write a paper in essay form.

The second course, AP Research, has students pick an issue and conduct their own research to come up with an end-of-the-year paper and presentation.

Effie Rouse, a director for College Board, said the courses go behind other AP classes, requiring college-level research rather than just immersing students in one topic.

“If you’re in an AP biology course, you are advanced in biology, you know biology,” Rouse said, “but that doesn’t mean you could read scientific research and answer a research question.”

District 155 offered 25 AP courses last year, including AP Seminar. Tafoya said there was high demand for the AP Seminar course.

Last spring, there were 2,900 AP exams given across the district, an increase from 2,500 in 2013-14 and 1,850 in 2013-14.

The district had 76 percent of last year’s test takers record at least a ‘3’ on the 5-point scoring system. Tafoya noted that is significant in the aftermath of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s recent signing of a bill that requires public colleges and universities in the state to provide college credit for any AP exam score of ‘3’ or above.

In addition to being the only McHenry district offering the AP Seminar course, District 155 is also the only four-school district in the state offering it at all four schools.

“We thought initially that we may just have one school pilot it, but as we explained the course to principals and student service coordinators, they said (they wanted) to get a section of it,” Tafoya said.

There will be 11 sections of the class offered this year throughout the district.

AP Capstone started in Illinois last year. District 155 is one of 13 districts in the state offering the program.

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